I would like to remind and re-educate readers about the meaning of the symbols we use to represent the Irish.
Shamrock: The most common symbol of the Irish is the three-leaf clover that St. Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity when teaching the Irish about Christianity. Although we see the four-leaf clover commonly used instead of the shamrock, it has no connection to the Irish. In fact the four-leaf clover was first recorded in Egypt back in the days of the Pharaohs. It was English and German immigrants who brought the “lucky” four-leaf clover tradition to this country.
Harp: The ancient Irish had a great respect for poets and musicians. The harp was a common instrument for these artists. The harp is found in some Irish families’ coats-of-arms. The harp was first used to represent Ireland and the Irish in the 15th century. It became a symbol of the Irish people’s fight for independence in the Rising of 1798 and has represented the Irish people ever since. The harp on green (referred to as the “green flag”) was used in many Irish-American organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Daughters of Erin and the fighting 69th Regiment of New York.
The color green: Before the 17th century the traditional color of the Irish was actually blue. It is believed that the lakes and the ocean around the island produced the love of this color. It was referred to as St. Patrick’s blue.
When the United Irishmen was formed in Belfast in the 18th century it was made up of Protestants. Men such as Napper Tandy, Wolfe Tone, Rory McSorley and Robert Emmet, men whose families came over with William of Orange, decided it was time to organize the fight for Ireland’s freedom.
They united with other Irish organizations and when they did they combined the two colors — orange and blue — which resulted in a dark green. It is from this point in history that green represented all Irish in their fight for freedom from the English and their right to govern themselves.
Irish Cross, also called the Celtic Cross: It is believed that St. Columkille introduced this type of cross that is now seen not only in Ireland but also places where the Irish missionaries went. That includes Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, England and many places in Europe. It has become very popular worldwide in art, jewelry, and cemetery stones. The cross is the Christian symbol representing how Christ died and the circle represents God - no beginning and no end.
The Tricolor Flag: The Green, White and Orange flag first appeared in Irish history in 1848 when Thomas Meagher, upon returning from France, introduced this flag copied after the French flag style. Immediately there was controversy concerning the flag. People thought it a redundancy to have the extra orange as it was already in the green. The color green was used to unite all Irish irrelevant of personal religious beliefs. The tricolor flag seemed to separate them. The orange was maintained in the hope that
the decedents of William who wish to remain under British control would have a change of heart and join for a united Ireland. It never happened. Today the tricolor is a national flag of a country representing 26 out of the 32 counties of Ireland.
No matter what your nationality, wear the green on March 17th and celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick. Honor one of many ethnic groups that make up this country. Raise a glass and enjoy. Slainte.